Day 5 - Site Design & Competitor Analysis


Sep 3, 2014

Business is a game of war strategy. Like chess, the game is composed of the same four elements as the universe:
  • Space
  • Time
  • Matter
  • Consciousness
Before you make a single move, you need to know the playing field as it is right now, before you enter it. A big part of success in business is being able to pivot quickly, which means reacting to shifts on the battlefield. But before you begin making reactive decisions, you want to minimize that need as much as possible by establishing a solid base of operations from which all other decisions arise.

If chosen properly, you'll never need to abandon this position because you've created an extreme advantage for yourself in one of the first three elements of war. You want to use your consciousness to establish dominance in a space of your own where they don't have the time to play catch-up because you have sufficient material to build your castle there.

From this castle, you strike. You build alliances and reveal as little as possible to them. You identify enemies and misdirect them. In this way, you divide and conquer. Then you checkmate your allies. Because at the end of the game when it all shakes out, there's only one seat on the throne. Notice I didn't say "when the dust settles," because we're not that stupid. Don't go for scorched earth and direct confrontation when you can assume the throne before anyone realizes what happened.

And that's the point of today's guide. We're going to design our castle in a strategic position on the battlefield and send armies to fortify unoccupied or weakly occupied portions of the field. Then we will encroach on other's territories until they have no choice but to surrender.

First, let's look at the other player's castles (by this I mean their websites). There are two aspects to a website that are analogous to war. A website has two things going for it:
  • Angle
  • Design
Every player assumes a position. They choose an angle at which to strike. Think of this as the purpose of their websites. Are they eCommerce? Information-based? Are they Clickbait nonsense? They have an angle, and it is that angle that you will exploit.

They also have designed their castle on this position. This is the physical blueprint, the layout, the framework, and the choice of decoration. Your job is to figure out which castle is structurally sound and functionally effective in regards to their position. Their design is either a weakness or a strength, and you will exploit it.

Design: Building Your Castle

As you look around, you're going to notice differences and similarities in angle and design.

Pro-Tip: Don't try to cover every angle at first. You will spread your army too thin and they will be decimated. Choose an angle that you excel at and that has weak players on the field. Your first goal is to dominate a single position on the field with all of your strength. That is how you become a major player.​

In this medieval war metaphor, let's call the users in the niche "peasants," in the sense that they can't survive on their own. They need to assign their allegiance to someone and will. This should be you. You will provide them with meaning, a sense of purpose, entertainment, and safety. They will build their village around your castle. All you ask for in return is tribute and taxes (aka money).

Nobody is going to build their village around a non-functional eye-sore.​

As you take a look at the angle everyone is playing from, you'll notice that there are somethings in which everyone is doing. The "Everyone's Doing It" phenomenon happens for three reasons:
  • It's tried and true and tested and earns the most money
  • They all copied each other and nobody tested a thing
  • The niche now has a culture of expectation in regards to design
The third bullet point is interesting and important. Even if the big design elements haven't been tested, they may be too deeply entrenched in the mind's of the peasants (users). You'll need to use them in order to quickly associate your site with the right concepts in their minds.

Graphic and front-end designers are the architects of the internet, and each culture employs and expects different design features. Beauty is cultural and in the eye of the beholder. Give the peasants what they want. Go too far off the mark and they won't understand what's happening.

For instance, take "Rom Com" movie posters...

It's not that they are lazy. It's not that having two people stand back to back produces more income for the movie. It's that you only have a split second to let your target demographic know that this is meant for them. And this is how this niche of movies has done this now, over the course of decades.

Identify those elements and concepts that are a "must have" in this regard and keep them. You can always split test the sub-elements later to improve your ROI.​

Beyond this, don't get too hung up on the design of your site, that's a classic procrastination trope. Simple is often best. Let your content speak for itself. You'll obviously want to put some thought into these things, otherwise we wouldn't be wasting time talking about them, but don't let it hold you back from making other progress. You can always circle back and really go all-out for version two or tweak and test version one till it hits maximum capacity.

The Visual Impact of Text

"Simple is often best." I'm reiterating that, because I want to explain it. The internet generally only gets displayed through computer monitors, tablets, and phones. These aren't always so easy on the eyes. If you look at the most successful websites on the planet, they put one thing and one thing only first:

This is one of those "Everybody is Doing It" things you'd better do too. The internet is content, and if a person can't easily read it quickly they'll bounce on to the next site. The goal is always Content-First with High-Contrast Colors and Correct Font Selection. That means sans-serif (without the frilly doo-dads) for your main font, with plenty of line-height and letter-spacing.

If you want to get fancy, you're still not going to get that fancy, because the main goal is readability. Take a look at these Logos for instance. These are huge, recognizable and branded logos.

You know what most of these logos don't feature? Icons. Serifs. When they do include serifs they are small, non-intrusive, and readable at this size. Except for The New York Times, and that's a hang-over from their printed newspaper, founded in 1851. That's damn near medieval times. Gothic was cool back then and the internet medium didn't exist. They wouldn't dare use serifs in their main font, maybe only headers which will be big enough to not disrupt the reader.

Notice that each uses a clearly readable font in a color that makes it pop from it's background color. Those colors shouldn't be chosen on a whim though...

The Psychology of Color in Design

Color elicits a visceral reaction in our minds.

If colors are poorly chosen, it can literally hurt your eyes. When used wisely, forget about what people think about your brand because you'll have control over what they feel. Here's a handy cheat-sheet by The Logo Company:


Of course, this is subjective as different people have had different experiences with colors, but these rules of thumb can definitely help out. There are plenty of brands up there that don't actually fit the description - but that doesn't mean they don't want to strike a chord with those emotions, even if they have zero intentions of actually being that... Take BP for example. Peaceful? Health? Hmm.

Like British Petroleum has proven, you can get away with just about anything. You can say you will and don't. You can piss in someone's drinking water as long as you post a sign next to their well that says "Generously Paid for by ____." Not that we recommend anything like this, but it goes to show the power of color psychology, branding, and positioning.

Pro-Tip: Take this very seriously if you don't want your site to look like a cluster-fuck. Your main colors are white and black. Then you get to choose ONE color as your accent. Not two. One.
Look at NBC, Google, eBay, etc. They look like children's letter blocks. You can't get away with that because you aren't NBC, Google, or eBay. And it still looks stupid. Look at the rest of those companies. They chose one accent color. That's your job.

Another Tip: You know what doesn't appear in nature except in an emo kid's hair? Complete jet black, the absolute and complete absorption of light. So when you use "black," don't go for the hex code #000; Go for something slightly more gray, like #222; or #333;. 100% visual contrast is too much. 95% is still superbly readable and looks natural.
Here's what you do with your Accent Color:
  • Use it in your logo
  • Use it as the color of your headers
  • Use it as the color of your buttons
  • Use it in images
  • Use it every where else, on your social media pages, etc.
What you do NOT do is make your accent color the color of your links. Not your outbound links, not your internal links. Sure, you can get away with using some odd-ball color for your links and add an underline or hover effect. But don't. Just use the classic blue shade. There's been an obscene amount of testing done on this, and it's one of those "culture" things. It's the culture of the internet. Read here how Bing split tested SHADES of blue and how much of an impact it had on their bottom line (to the tune of $80 million a year). Make this decision easy. Use the same hex code that Bing or Google does and move on.
Choosing an Accent Color

Back to choosing an accent color. I know you have a favorite color, it doesn't matter. The first thing you want to do is step into the mind of your peasants. What are their fears and pain points? What problem are you solving for them?

What is the benefit that they are gaining from your solution?
Find the closest synonym to your benefit in the lists below (see the full list here!) and choose a primary color. Here are a few examples so you can see where this is going:

: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, 'fight or flight', stimulation, masculinity, excitement.
Negative: Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain.

Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm.
Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.

Green is BALANCE.
Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation.

Violet is SPIRITUAL.
: Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality.
Negative: Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.​

Again, please visit this link and look through all of the primary and secondary colors. Get this right. Now head's up. Do not, for the sake of your brand, use a straight up primary or secondary color. Go tertiary or go for any old random color. Get a hex code and make it yours. This is your brand. You have an infinite number of color shades. Don't make your choice from a 12 pack of Crayola crayons. Get some inspiration on shades from my favorite color palette site: Design-Seeds.

Arming Your Soldiers: Initial Angle

So now that you have an idea of how you're site is going to look visually, we need to talk about what angle you're going to strike from. Remember from the tip above, you simply cannot come out of the gates wielding every weapon possible. You don't have the time or expertise to train all of your soldiers in this way.

If all of your enemies soldiers are masters at hand-to-hand combat, wielding maces and swords, then you should do one of two things: Train your soldiers how to be deadly with long-ass spears or how to be excellent archers and crossbowmen.

Your goal is to look at your real competitors (not the most gigantic brands in your vertical) and determine what their strengths are. You're not going to take down the PR9, 14 year old company who already is attacking from every angle. You'd be stupid to even let them know you exist, because they will crush you. But there are tons of PR0, PR1, PR2, PR3 combatants out there. The older they are, the better, because that means they aren't that active. These are the guys you want to out-maneuver first.

If everyone and their mother are feeding their peasants bread, cheese, and water (Clickbait content), then maybe it's time they got a taste of some delicious steak (Pillar Information content). When one of them gets a taste, they're going to tell their friends (link and share) where they can have a better dinner.

You get the point here? Find the enemy's strength which should show you the gaping holes in their defense. Build your castle with that angle and position in mind. That is where you will strike first. Once you dominate that portion of the field, you'll have the resources to bring in a second angle while you defend the first.

Let's talk more about this and break it down deeper:

You're new to this battlefield. Your enemies aren't. They've been here a long time. Most of them aren't even interested in domination. They think all is well. Everyone's kind of agreed to co-exist at different levels and from different angles. They've colluded on territory and are happy with their little slices of the pie. Not you. You want to eat everyone's dinner.

Being new has a very specific advantage. You aren't weighed down by infrastructure. You aren't worried about feeding an army of 10,000 warriors. You have 10 assassins (your chess queen) who require very little in the way of resources, have crazy mobility, and can strike swift and severe blows that shift the tide of battle forever.

Remember, find their strengths to expose their weaknesses. Then strike.

Let's play out some scenarios:

Strength: Lord Octavio the 2nd of his Name is so convinced that publishing 5 blog posts a day is the ticket, that he never bothers to publish anything over 300 words on a topic that is of import to the peasants.

Publish the quintessential guide to everything anyone needs to know of mass importance about your topic. Make it 20,000 words, and have each section link to articles that expound upon each sub-topic with 5,000 words. Find every person who's ever linked to Octavio's shitty blog posts and give them what they really want. Now you're getting a link from every site that links to him and more that he wasn't' worthy to associate with.
FINISH HIM. Octavio is dunzo.

Strength: Baron Steelhammer is pumping out product reviews like crazy and running around building web 2.0 profiles (not even sites) and blog comments to them.

Strategy: You figure out which ones he's managed to rank for using this silly method. Those are low-hanging fruit you can take right out of his mouth. Look at these specific reviews on his page and write something 10x better. Use internal links from your killer guide above to flow some link juice towards them. Drop your supreme reviews on Reddit, get some forum posts going, and do some social PPC for likes and shares.
FATALITY. Baron Von Dingbat's apple orchard is now yours.

What you're doing at this stage is starving out your competition by re-routing their trade routes to your own castle. Now they have less resources to move forward and you have more.

In future stages, you can figure out exactly how to conduct yourself in battle with a little thought. Eventually you can set up garrisons around their castle so they literally can't expand. Nobody is using social media for this niche? That's an all-you-can-eat buffet. That's a thousand peasants with no place to call home wandering the countryside looking for someone to keep them safe.

Eventually, your domain is strong enough to take most any long-tail without any links. Time to crush Baron Steelhammer and his product reviews. Have your content writers bust out a review for every product he reviewed and all of the rest. Interlink them heavily and then make this an entire category on your site. He's already weak. Now you cut off his castle's water supply.

Usurp the Throne, One Region at a Time

There's only one thing left to do. Storm the castle. Or better yet, send in a member of your royal counsel. Explain to him and his family that they don't have to be hungry any more. All they have to do is bend the knee. If they fork over their domain and content, you'll give them $10,000 and they can go try to re-establish their kingdom somewhere else. Now you're 301-ing all of his product pages to yours, porting over existing content and 301-ing those URLs, and pushing his homepage and category juice to yours.

No mercy, no remorse. Nobody eats in this land but you.

Your pawns have provided misdirection. Your rooks are in place narrowing the enemy's reach. Your knights are jumping around surprising the shit out of everyone else. Your bishops then go in and convince your opponents that they need you. All they have to do is tip their king and surrender their farmlands.

You're now dominating the smaller corners of the battlefield. You own enough land and gather enough resources that you're ready to not only act like, but present yourself as a king.

Your goal at this stage of the game is to defend your castle through genuine fortification and also through illusion. Use a large portion of your resources to continue dominating these angles of yours. Never let anyone catch you slipping. You're catching other's slipping, not the other way around. We're not going to go head-to-head with anyone. That's the dumbest way method of combat. The intellect is sharper than the sword. That's why we're spending most of our resources fortifying our current position.

The lesser portion of your resources will be spent expanding your horizons, which means performing new angles better than anyone else.

You don't need a lot of resources here because you carry influence now. What you're going to do is exploit other's fear and greed.
Build Alliances - Scratching Backs

Take a look at the playing field as it is. Reassess competitor's strengths and weaknesses. You're done with your opening moves. You're now in the meat of the war. It's time to build alliances.

Take a look at the competitors at this new stage of battle:
  • If they can hit "Publish" and get 1,000 people onto their site within seconds, it's possible that they aren't paying attention to all of the little fine details.
  • If they're converting at 25% and are spending their time serving their current customers, they might not be focused enough on new traffic sources.
  • If they've been enjoying strong rankings for years, they might not have bothered to build their social presence.
Strengths and weaknesses for you to exploit. Last time, you struck at weaknesses and starved out your enemies. Now they are too strong for that. Their resources (cash flow and peasant exposure) are too strong to be starved out. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Instead of focusing only on weakness, focus on strength and then pivot to exploit it while filling their weakness gap.

Strength: Emperor Sato can click publish on his Facebook page and get 10,000 views in an hour with his clickbait crap.

Strategy: Write them a really tasty article. That's one of your strengths. Hand them a killer pillar article. What you're not going to do is optimize it. You're going to de-optimize it. Sato is too busy with social to understand SEO. He thinks you're going to hook him up with some organic traffic. Think again, Sato Sensei. You've agreed to trade this to him, and all he has to do is share two of your supremely optimized articles that need a slight bump to hit #1 and outrank Pharaoh Amen-Ra.
Thanks, "Senpai." Have fun trying to rank that extremely readable, impossibly rankable article we gave you. We appreciate you allowing a 1/4th of your peasants to become traitors and move to our villages, while helping choke off Amen-Ra's resources.

We president now.

Manipulation & Power Plays for Authority

Pharoah Amen-Ra noticed that you outranked him and hit you up about it.

"How in the world did you get 500 likes, shares, pins, and retweets to that article over night?"​

"Well, Mr. Ra, I won't tell you, but I'll do it for you. What I need from you is to take these three articles and publish them on your site for me with do-follow links. One goes to my homepage, one goes to my pillar guide, and one goes to an article that I'm secretly competing against you with."

So now you go back to Emperor Sato and say, "Hey... Senpai, check do me a favor again. Let me give you two more articles like the last one you loved so much. I just want you to share two more posts of mine." Then you give him two articles to share... one is from your own site to the article you're secretly competing against Amen-Ra with, and the other is to the article you gave Amen-Ra that links to the article you're secretly competing against Amen-Ra with.

A week later the Pharoah hits you back:

"I don't know how you did it, but you got me 500 shares and likes and 20 links to that post you gave me. Now it's ranking #1 for the term you optimized it for. It's not bringing much traffic or money, but you slayed it regardless. Thanks! This is the juiciest post on my whole site!"​

And it links to you... and now that post outranks Amen-Ra for his own post. But he's too busy celebrating the fact that he got 100 new Facebook fans overnight to notice that you completely fucked him. He was too busy noticing his new 5 ounce Sirloin to notice you swiped his 10 ounce T-Bone at the same time.

We president now.

Look for rulers in the field that got lucky or have just been lucky to not run into someone like you just yet. The Dalai Lama of Brand X in your niche has only survived because nobody else had a black enough heart to eat his dinner. He understands this is a possibility but he believes peace and non-violence is the only way forward. That's why you just burnt his whole shit to the ground and sent him into exile. He's now seeking domicile in your kingdom, because he doesn't even realize where the final blow came from.

This is how you'll be playing the game as you continue to analyze your competitors. But you won't do all of this from the outset until your castle is built and semi-fortified. This is just a taste of the spoils of your future victories.

Knowing how to navigate these strategies is what's important now.

Yeah, it sounds easy, right? Not if you're not armed with information. Information is power. It is your strongest weapon in business. Mega Brands literally pay people to infiltrate each other's businesses and leak information to themselves and to the public. Internal sabotage is how it goes, and you can't hide information.

Once you've made a move, it's out there. That's why you see other forums all now trying to sponsor their own Wordpress theme. Guess who did that first? BuSo Lightning. Soon, you'll see other forums trying to come out with Crash Courses too. You want to be the person being copied, because that means you're three steps ahead.

Information arms you to get ahead, and then your decisive blows get you ahead. So where do we find this information?

In the early stages, your entire model is going to be match and exceed when it comes to backlinks. Match comes first. You can't match if you don't know what your opponents already have linking to them. Arm yourself by using the big three:
Each has weaknesses in their index. You'll need to compile data from each of them and strip them of duplicates. Then you can sort it by priority and type and get busy.

Social Content
If you're attacking the social angle, there's no need to experiment and see what works or not. Just analyze the data and find out. Get this information from:
Rewrite the top performers. Promote the content that hasn't made it's rounds in a while. Keep the others in the bag and schedule them to go out when the time is right.

Keyword Rankings & Value
You're going to cover all of your bases eventually using the typical keyword research methods. But when you're strategically looking for easy wins that you can steal from competitors to starve them while filling your own plate, use tools like Ahrefs above, along with:
Find out what has low competition and high value and go conquer it.

Bringing it All Together
I listed three techniques and sources of information above. That's not all there is. Your task is to think and exploit. But let me give you a vision of how you can use the three data points above to your advantage.

Scenario: You've found that this one silly topic slays it on social. You've also discovered a low-competition, high-value keyword that's semi-related. So now you rewrite the social performer and optimize it for this keyword. You pony up $100 and pay a non-competing page to publish and boost your post to all their fans. Then you drop it on Reddit for extra exposure. While that's going on, you match every backlink that every version of this post has ever had, including outreach to those linking to it. Then you create more links that other versions don't have. A week later, you're ranking #1 for the 3,200 exact match term and getting 40% of the traffic for it. Your enemy used to get 40%, but now he only gets 15% and has no chance of ever outranking you for it again.​

Pro-Tip: You may not have the resources for these subscriptions yet. Go to Fiverr and spend $100 to get full exports of all of your competitors from all of these sources in one go. This historical data will serve you fine for as long as it takes for you to enter the End Game.

We went ahead and talked about Angles and how to attack, but we never finished talking about how you should finish off your castle. We built foundation and talked about decorations, but we must revisit the conversation now that you're in the strategy mindset.

Now that you have a basic design and a plan of attack, you need to build your fortress to assist you with this angle.

What I mean by this is you need to be considering the sub-elements of your site design and their functionality. Everything must support you in your mission or it's dead weight.

There is an entire day for this discussion in the future. But you need to ask yourself the grand question right now... What is my angle and how does that angle make money?

Think like this:

  • Clickbait is based on tons of views, so I need CPM advertising
  • eCommerce is for selling products, so I need an affiliate program
  • Information is for selectively presenting info to funnel to sellers, so I need CPC or Lead-Gen
Those aren't the only angles nor the only monetization methods for those angles. Think deeply about this. It's not only about what your peasants need, but how it is they hope to gain it, and then you shape your content around that hope so they take action. @CCarter will explain later in-depth how to choose and how to not choke out one method with another. You just need to be thinking about it for now.

Mailing Lists
No, Twitter followers don't count. Facebook fans don't count. Mailchimp is only a tool. Unless you gather a direct contact method for your peasants and control it 100%, you can't collect all the taxes and tribute owed you. This is how you keep peasants and gain those who are considering giving you their allegiance. This is how you extract maximum taxation from each one. Skip this, and you're leaving food on the table that your opponents will undoubtedly scoop onto their own plates.

If you want peasants happily forking over their contact information, you need to bait them with a lead magnet. Offer them something in exchange for their info, whether that be an e-book or product sample, etc.

Site Design Elements

You probably have a sidebar on 99% of your pages. Use it without detracting from your main content. Slap in a mailing list form, an advertisement of your own or from a network, drain link juice to your important articles (high value search terms or those proven to funnel and convert). The options are endless. Make it useful to your end goal, which is money. You won't control which page each user lands on, but this is your chance to make sure they see what you need them to see.


This loads on every page. That should tell you how to use it. The least useful but necessary navigation elements go here. Link to your social media satellites. Link to pages you want to rank. Put disclaimers that must be sitewide here very small. All of your legal stuff that doesn't make you money goes here. Use it wisely to contain items that you must have that detract from user experience or break up your funnels.

Responsive Design
If your site isn't responsive, you're screwing up. Notice I didn't say adaptive, static, featuring a mobile version, or any other half-way lazy cheat. Your site needs to be 100% fluidly responsive. You cannot predict the thousands of devices that are going to come out and be used. There are no standard viewport sizes. You must have 100% fluidity to provide a perfect user experience on any device.

Look at all that money being left on the table. After you get your design fully responsive, laugh at your competitors who don't have fluidity. Their resources are yours for the taking.

Don't spend 80% of your time making the homepage look perfect and only 20% styling your posts. It's very rare for more than 5% of visitors to ever even see the homepage at first. They arrive through other channels to your inner pages and bounce. As you grow, so will your direct traffic. Get it right now, get it perfect later.

Your goal with your homepage is to reflect your brand experience, explain what your brand is and does, and funnel the massive amounts of link juice it will garner to important categories so it flows throughout your entire site... because you're also interlinking your inner pages, right? Capture email addresses here too, sell advertising at ridiculous premiums for time periods, not engagement, etc.

The other day I saw a website with their affiliate disclaimer linked to from their main menu. Is that really one of the most important pages for your visitors to land on? Put some thought into your main navigation menu and which content needs to go there, and save things like disclaimers and policies for the footer menus.

Don't just link to categories from your main menu, either... Take advantage of the fact that you can link to anything you want on your entire website (Or elsewhere...) from a menu that will appear site-wide. Keep it to the bare minimum. Only the most important things go here. My main site has three top navigation options. Control the flow of your users.

Get testimonials and place them on your homepage, about page, contact page. Spread them around, make them different. Make it real. Don't fake this. Social proof is huge, and if your competitors are dropping the ball here you'll be stacking the odds in your favor. It doesn't matter if you don't sell anything. Have someone exclaim how amazing the information and content is. It changed their lives!

Show happy faces. Show names. Say what city and state they are from. List their Twitter handles. Of course, feature their short quotes.

Social Proof
If this matters for your site, show the number of fans, followers, and RSS feed subscribers you have. Don't lie on anything that can be discovered as a lie. People are more likely to share and become followers and fans if they see others are doing it. It connotes value to the user and they will experience a fear of missing out if they don't join your mailing list or become a fan.

Authority Trust
Did you get coverage in a huge newspaper? Did Huffington Post, Examiner, Forbes, or any other recognizable site as much as mention or link to you? Create a little horizontal section on your homepage that shows their logos. Make it a jQuery carousel and show all of the big ones. Don't link out though, just show them. Optimize the images and put them on a CSS sprite sheet. Keep it clean and fast loading. Add a disclaimer on your disclaimer page that you have no affiliation with these sites, so they can't cry about it (they won't care or even notice. You're promoting them).

Social buttons
Speaking of social proof, you'll be working hard to build up your social audiences during the
Social Media section of this course. The classic spot is at the top of your sidebar, but if it's not hugely important, put it in your footer. Make sure you have the Schema Markup (we'll explain later) so that Google understands you own these. It's a brand signal that you do not want to live without. You can't dominate without them. It's not negotiable.

The images you're using on your site might be awful and you might not even realize. How many sites do you come across every day where the images just look off?

But it depends on your site, of course. "It depends" could really be the mantra for most things when it comes to digital strategy. uses really hacky looking stock images a lot of the time, and it works for them because its a part of their satire. If I had a site that was reliant on Facebook traffic, I would want to pick less-polished images that look more like the type of pictures that people share on their timelines because polished stock photos automatically look like advertisements.

Make sure each image is cropped, colored, and perfect. Don't get lazy. Learn how to do this photo manipulation. Even overlay text if it's for a hero image. If there's an opportunity and you don't take it, your users will think only one thing... "my potential king is a lazy bastard."

This one's easy. Have a search bar on your site and monitor what people are typing into it. You can roll out content that solves their need over time and rake in long-tails you never new existed. The overwhelming majority of search terms are one-time searches. Be in a position to win those by using this method. Another way to find more content to post for this is to look at forums and question and answer sites. The Google Hummingbird side-algorithm will reward you handsomely if you do this on a large enough scale. Its a part of being an authority in Google's eyes.


That's it. We can't possibly discuss every single feature of your site or we'll be here all day. Remember, our goal in this guide isn't to tell you what to do, but teach you how to think about what to do.

What I can say is that with the information above and execution over time, you'll build an impenetrable castle that can never be approached lest you allow it.

Continue to diligently soak in all of the information in the coming days and you'll be ready for your opening moves, the mid-game, and ultimately prepared to strike the finishing blow in the Endgame. Dominate your vertical. No mercy, no remorse.
Nov 29, 2015
I think of all the posts so far - this is the one that has got me thinking the most and I have a question.

Lets say that I have a competitor who has a site dedicated to reviewing golf clubs and apparel, his reviews are pretty solid, around 1,000 words per review with some comments, the site's been online since '08 and has a Domain Authority of 34 and majestic shows 118,000 back links from 1,500 referring domains. He has 24,000 fans on is Facebook page and 2,000 twitter followers.

Would I be right in assuming that initially this competitor is too tough to battle in the search engines? If so do I then look for other opportunities?

Hearts and minds warfare
When I look at his Facebook and Twitter feeds they are just posts back to every review he pushes with no community interaction or interesting content shared. Would this be an opportunity become the peoples champion, building a social channel that gives the peasants exactly what they want on social media?


Sep 3, 2014
Would I be right in assuming that initially this competitor is too tough to battle in the search engines?

Going only on what you've mentioned above, here's my opinion on the situation: He's a lazy marketer and you're going to make him your bitch.

If a site has been online since '08 and it's about to be '16... he's had 8 years and he's only DA 34? You could catch up in 6 months flat, and that's only because Moz is slow to crawl the web and grow their index.

I'd also question the quality of his backlinks. 1,500 referring domains is fairly high but with 118,000 backlinks from those, it averages out at 78.67 links per domain. And you know that it's more likely that most of those links are coming from far fewer domains. He might have bought sitewides, dropped comments on domains with sitewide widgets that list him, etc. Dig around and see what he did for sure. I'm guessing that you won't see much of quality other than what he picked up just by being in existence for 8 years. The rest is probably typical crud, with a lot of it being data sites, alexa scrapes, wikipedia scrapes, etc. I wouldn't fear this guy. Quality over quantity every day.

And remember, you can sneak up in SERPs he isn't in as you power up before you start cannibalizing his cash flow. He doesn't even need to know you exist until you're ready to strike. Don't alarm him and get him into marketer mode. Just let him keep wasting his time lolly-gagging.

Would this be an opportunity become the peoples champion, building a social channel that gives the peasants exactly what they want on social media?

Again, based on what you've said, my guess is he either bought fake fans on Facebook or used their PPC advertising to buy them. But either way, if he's just posting links to his reviews, he's definitely destroyed his Edge Rank. 240,000,000 fans won't save him if his engagement is garbage. I hope he has money to spend on boosting his reach.

Yes, I'd definitely keep this guy in your sights. He's yours. You can take him. The On-Page SEO day will teach you how to destroy his reviews in quality for humans and in quality for the bots. The Off-Page SEO and Outreach days will show you where to get high quality links quickly and then high powered links with effort that will blow him out of the water. Then the Social Media day will give you the blueprint for outperforming him from every direction on social.

I'd say based on the discussion in Day 2 - Choosing a Niche, you've done well. Make it not only about reviewing clubs and apparel, but about golf as a whole. I wouldn't bother trying to cover "news" yet. But I'd build an entire silo based on around tips which link to your reviews. Then you can narrow your focus to just Drivers for now, then expand to Irons, Putters, Wedges, etc. Then eventually to Gloves, Balls, etc. Start narrow, carve out your own piece of land, and solidify your fortress there. Then you can expand it horizontally into a castle. But you won't be able to defend 10,000 acres just yet. Focus is your weapon when starting out.

Good luck! Start a case study in the Laboratory if you haven't. I'd love to follow along.


Metaverse Phase One Director
Sep 15, 2014
To Expand upon the psychology of colors in this post, I want to bring to light Peterson Teixeira and his piece called 'The Psychological Hooks of Colors In Marketing'. He writes

These core points influence how the color is perceived and interpreted by a person.


Did you know that in Chinese culture white is the color of mourning and death while in Egypt the color for mourning is yellow and for Iran that color is blue?!


  • color preferences are influenced by gender and age
  • color preferences are influenced by personal taste
  • color preferences are influenced by the country’s culture
  • color preferences are influenced by personal experiences/history

That's a new perspective for me to consider - the culture/perspective of colors for groups of people is a new level of design consideration when designing your brands. Most of the color psychology is based off the USA audience - which is great if you are targeting mostly the USA. However if you are using mourning colors and targeting a culture where those colors invoke a negative memory/feeling you are in a bit of trouble.

The whole piece is pretty phenomenal and worth the read: The Psychological Hooks of Colors In Marketing
  • Like
Reactions: Bee


BuSo Pro
Sep 4, 2016
Here is what I've gathered from this post:
  1. Pick a niche
  2. Find weak competitor(s) within the niche
  3. Choose a competitor that is lacking a certain area
    1. E.G. Poor social presence or incredibly poor UX
  4. Exploit this weakness by doing everything they've done (matching and exceeding their links etc), and of course filling in those holes that they've left

And here is my additional plan of attack:
  • Picking a product / niche
  • Reviewing every single product in that niche
"Your first goal is to dominate a single position on the field with all of your strength. That is how you become a major player." To do this, I was thinking something along the lines of this:
  • Adding lots of additional relevant content to support the product. E.G:
    • A massive 5k+ word buying guide for that product
    • How-to guides, tutorials and any other content I can create around the product to leverage more traffic to my site, then push that traffic towards my reviews for those products
Does this sound like a reasonable strategy?


Sep 3, 2014
Does this sound like a reasonable strategy?

Yes, with the assumption your foundation can ultimately accommodate expansion as discussed in Day 2.

As an example, you want to be Michael's Foot Emporium, not just Michael's Site About Green Socks Only. You may never need to expand past green socks, but you want the option and you want that leverage as a selling point during liquidation. Apple is still growing because the weren't limited to desktops. They now have laptops, tablets, phones, headphones, and working on self-driving cars.

But yes, let's say you start even this small:

Vertical > Sub-Sector > Niche > Sub-Niche > Single Product
If you dominate that single product, not only do you now have cash flow and the means to start moving horizontally in the sub-niche and eventually vertically up to the niche, sub-sector, and finally vertical, what you've effectively done is cut off a large percentage of that portion of your competitions' cash flow. You can even recapture a some of what's left by allowing them to join your affiliate program.

In SEO and rankings this is zero sum. Every time you win, they lose. In the broader view, you're capturing the hearts (and contact information) of the demographic. You're grooming them to return to you as the authority for their needs, educating them on what they prefer, and selling it to them. You're dominating the entire buying cycle, in the SERPs, in their email inbox, in their physical mailbox, retargeting them around the web, on their TV screens, etc. Nobody else even gets a chance.

You want it to the point that you are analogous to an action. People don't search any more. They "Google it." When someone buys green socks, you want them to be "Michael-ing it."​

Remember too, this isn't a linear process. Don't wait until you've dominated one product before you start prepping for the next. You need this process rolling on a conveyer belt with your brand insidiously sinking and winding its tendrils into the neurons of your demographic. That's how you hit critical mass where the snowball keeps rolling based on its own weight.


BuSo Pro
Sep 4, 2016
Rewrite the top performers. Promote the content that hasn't made it's rounds in a while. Keep the others in the bag and schedule them to go out when the time is right.
When re-writing the top performing content, how far back in time would you go? Would you rewrite the top content in the last 24 hours, or maybe over the last 4 weeks?

Also, when you say rewrite, are you referring to rewriting the article people link to or the actual social post itself (like a fb post or a tweet)?



Sep 3, 2014
When re-writing the top performing content, how far back in time would you go? Would you rewrite the top content in the last 24 hours, or maybe over the last 4 weeks?

I'd consider a year or two or three even. The shorter time periods are good when you're looking for news-relevant posts, ones that have the present as their context. But there are golden evergreen articles you can revive after enhancing them that will stretch back over the years.

Also, when you say rewrite, are you referring to rewriting the article people link to or the actual social post itself (like a fb post or a tweet)?

The content itself. Above I mentioned "enhancing" the article and the social comments are a perfect place to find insightful thoughts and jokes to merge into the article in your own style.

But no, I didn't mean the social post itself, although it can give you a clue as to which psychological triggers worked well, but it's guess work. You never know what initial audience looked like and if certain influencers picked it up. Sometimes that can come down to luck, unless you want to use some paid advertising, in which you can dig through to figure out what the demographic is to target.


On the edge of the sand
BuSo Pro
Oct 28, 2015
Was just going back through this. Great stuff @Ryuzaki . Experimenting with changing my links to the standard google blue.

Question: Do you recommend changing the titles of the internal related posts in the sidebar/end of content to standard blue, or keep those the same color as headlines? They are links, but they are also the headlines of the articles they link to.


Sep 3, 2014
Question: Do you recommend changing the titles of the internal related posts in the sidebar/end of content to standard blue, or keep those the same color as headlines? They are links, but they are also the headlines of the articles they link to.

Like Google and Bing have done, you'll want to test it and see what drives the most clicks. I've not taken it that far. There's plenty of ways to draw attention to those link sets, and once the attention is there there are better ways to get the click, like having better titles or anchors.

I'd also think about how much attention you want to draw to the sidebar as users are scrolling down. You want them engaged on the topics, contextual links, or display ads. The rest is going to pick up interested scragglers that didn't take action in the content either way. Of course though, if your game is CPM and not CPM or product sales, it might be worth making the sidebar pop like crazy.

That's my recommendation... think about the intent of your page / category / site and if it's in your best interest, and if so then move into a split test. In the end it might be some completely different 3rd color you didn't anticipate that performs best.